Let me preface this article by explaining I’ve been sick all weekend….some kind of sore throat and massive all over body aches. And random involuntary sleeping. Apparently this weekend past was when we should have rolled clocks forward. My iPhone and Mac did this automatically, but the other clocks in the bedroom and kitchen don’t. In and out of sleep, I kept waking and trying to figure out how long I’d been out. Sometimes it seemed like I had woken before I actually went to bed; I’d thought I’d been dislodged from linear time flow. I didn’t discover the clock discrepancy until this morning. Why am I telling you this? Because I’m rather irritable, and thus I have little patience for bullshit. And to a certain extent, bullshit is the very currency of media releases. It’s all conceptual names and talk about “user experience”, when really it’s a bunch of parts that you’re gonna grind and sweat on. Marketing is like when you come home from a long day’s work, and the girlfriend asks you what role play do you want to do tonight: teacher/student, shipwreck survivors, or maybe princess/knave? And you’re like, how about we just f**k and then we can watch Doctor Who while I give you a back massage?
So to SRAM’s marketing department: I apologize for going through your CX1 media release with a chainsaw, but you’re the ones who choose to release it the morning of my agony, not me. And to readers: I’m going to try to answer all the really relevant questions before you can ask them, so read slowly so you don’t miss it.
SRAM CX1! It’s here…sorta…or rather, yes and no. If you’re a cyclocross techno-nutter, you may have already noticed riders like Ryan Trebon sporting the prototype gear at CX nationals and worlds, but SRAM is giving July 2014 as due for availability.
That’s all fine, Mark, but what is this CX1 and why should I care? CX1 is SRAM’s concept name for a group of products developed for single chainring/rear derailleur-only drivetrains, targeted (primarily) at cyclocross. The advantages to a single chainring setup include a more robust drivetrain (since front shifting can be dodgy during cx racing), lighter weight, and better mud clearance. Any moron can remove the front derailleur and one chainring from their bike, but it is another thing entirely to make that work consistently in the chaos of a cyclocross race without dropping the chain. SRAM does this by borrowing features from their groundbreaking XX1 mtb group, SRAM’s original 1x11 system.
The two key technologies for both CX1 and XX1 are the chainring and rear derailleur, both of which use tech-sounding acronyms with ALL CAPS: X-SYNC and X-HORIZON….because lower case just doesn’t suffice for SRAM.
X-SYNC chainrings have a distinct profile with tall teeth that alternate in thickness between standard width and something rather thicker. The thicker teeth are too wide to fit the chain at the links formed by inner plates but exactly fit between the outer plate links. This reduces the chain’s lateral freedom of movement on the ring, keeping the chain from derailing from the ring without any sort of guide or deflector. Even though SRAM invented this narrow-wide tooth profile for their XX1 group, a ton of other manufacturers have straight up copied them. I mean, if X-SYNC was blink182 (circa Enema of The State), then last week’s Taipei Bike Show was the Warp Tour, 8 years later awash in pop-punk wannabe acts. Which tells me that SRAM’s patent department is slacking off compared to Shimano’s aggressive preemptive strike strategies. It is said that Shimano has obtained a patent for shift-by-thought technology just in case humans evolve to have another frontal lobe.